The Red Light District

Chapter One: Smile for the Camera.

The systems work like this: Cameras are usually triggered by road sensors when a car encroaches on an intersection after the light has turned red. A camera snaps a picture of the license tag and sometimes photographs the driver, too. That information is then usually forwarded to the local police department to interpret, and a citation is issued. Some systems use short video “clips” instead of a photograph.
…That’s work that used to tie up traffic enforcers. But freeing up police officers is hardly the only allure to towns and cities. Many (but not all) have found the traffic cameras to be lucrative as well.
Perhaps the most dramatic example is the District of Columbia’s cash cow. The district likes to boast that it has reduced red-light violations at 49 intersections by two-thirds since the program started in 1999 — but it’s also raked in more than $37 million in revenue from tickets, mostly from nonresidents. (Running a red light there is a $75 fine.)
Counting D.C.’s automated speed-enforcement program, the local government has amassed some $130 million from the electronic monitoring programs, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. That group has praised the results of the red-light cameras but has been wary of D.C.’s motives.
…The picture is muddier than you might think. According to a comprehensive, 2005 study sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, red-light cameras indeed reduced total “T-bone” crashes by 25%. But because drivers at camera-equipped intersections seem to slam on the brakes so they won’t get a ticket, total rear-end crashes increased 15%, and injury rear-end crashes jumped 24%.
…That doesn’t mean the city is going any easier on drivers, however.
In July, the city [San Diego] also passed an ordinance allowing citations to be issued after a “grace period” of just one-tenth of a second after a traffic signal turns red (instead of the previous 0.6 seconds), which will boost the number of tickets and the dollars coming into city coffers.

2 Responses to “The Red Light District”

  1. The_Real_JeffS says:

    This is serious income to any city. I know of a couple communities that extended their city limits to cover the near by interstate so they could “enforce” speed limits.
    While I applaud any effort to control idiot speeders, treating it as a “sin tax” only for the reason of increased income is highly annoying. And not a little arrogant. I can’t say if it’s illegal, but I think it is unethical.
    Oh, wait. Am I using “ethics” in regards to “government”? Silly me!

  2. There are over 2000 cameras in the U.S. today and this trend will continue. I do think people drive eratically around these intersections and it’s important to know where these intersections are located to drive cautiously and not tailgate.

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